This is a public service announcement. With this post, I am trying to save lives. I encourage you to share this message with everyone. Please be safe out there!
I’ve written several times about my job in the road construction industry. I’ve been trying to help provide basic tips for driving through construction, but the message just doesn’t seem to be getting through. So I’m doing a series of public service announcements and asking everyone to share this one simple message: traffic cones could save your life.
When I set traffic cones, I am placing them in a specific area to block some sort of hazard. That hazard could be fairly obvious like construction equipment, or hidden like a pothole. The hazard could be periodic, such as equipment entering or leaving. The point is, they are blocking something dangerous.
So one side of the cones are dangerous. The other side is relative safety. By driving in between cones, you are passing from the safe side to the dangerous side. The only time it is acceptable to drive in between the cones is a traffic controller (flagger) or other construction worker specifically directs you to do so.
Traffic cones protect you
Here are some of the dangers that traffic cones protect you from:
- A drop in road surface
- Parked equipment
- Moving equipment
- Falling equipment
- Construction materials
- Construction workers
The biggest danger is the equipment. Most of the stuff used in road construction has horrible visibility for the driver. If you can’t see a driver’s face, chances are that they can’t see you. Most construction is done with a back and forth motion, so you can think you are okay following behind, and all of a sudden, it is in reverse and you are getting run over.
When cranes are being used, a large area around it is cordoned off in case the crane’s load somehow breaks loose. The crane can be lifting thousands of pounds. If that breaks loose, you could be dead before anyone has the chance to shout a warning.
A drop in the ground is another danger that you may not be able to see at all until it happens. Just inches from the cone line, the ground could fall away by a few inches or several feet. A year and a half ago, a driver at night ignored the line of cones, barrels, and barricades detouring traffic a few feet to the right. The car drove off the end of the paved surface and fell 6 inches and broke an axle. That’s bad enough. About 20 feet away, they were working on building the grade up to connect a new bridge to an existing road. That drop-off was over twenty-five feet deep.
Traffic Cones Protect Others from You
Note, the danger isn’t necessarily just to you. While we are supposed to be alert whenever we are in the road, construction workers often let their guard down when inside a “dead lane” where traffic is not supposed to be. It’s kind of like walking down the sidewalk. You aren’t expecting any cars on the sidewalk, so you aren’t paying as close attention as when you are crossing the street. But if a car does start driving on the sidewalk, and you aren’t paying attention, that could be fatal. Similarly, if a car enters the dead lane and a construction worker gets in their way, the driver is going to have to live with that for the rest of their life.
Traffic Cones Protect from Property Damage
Here’s an example from a couple of weeks ago. We were re-paving Washington Street in Adams County. We had the center three lanes (one each direction, and the turn lane) coned off for about a mile and a half. In that area, no left turns were allowed because of the road construction. Instead, cars needed to drive to the end of the project and turn around. I know, it’s a pain in the butt. But in the middle, we were paving.
The first step of paving is spraying “tack” which is a liquid tar substance. It is very sticky and sticks to everything, including your car’s paint job. Driving on the tack is a surefire way of getting black specks all over your car, including the windshield. And it doesn’t come off. At least with anything short of diesel, as far as I’ve found.
After the tack comes the asphalt. Hot asphalt fresh off the truck can be as much 300+ degrees. Driving on that can superheat the air in your tires and increase your tire pressure to the point that they burst. After the asphalt leaves the paver, it is steam-rolled by three different rollers. Before the first roller, asphalt basically has the consistency of soft mud. Not only can you get stuck (and destroy your tires), but you will absolutely destroy the paving job and it will have to be re-done. It isn’t until all three rollers are by and the road surface is tested for compaction and temperature that cars can safely drive on it. The road surface has to cool down below 160 degrees before it is safe. On a hot summer’s day, that can be up to 2 hours after it was first paved.
Driving in between cones is tempting when your destination is just across the street or traffic is backed up. But doing so puts yourself and others in grave danger and can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Please share this message and let’s keep everyone safe!
P.S. I am participating in a blogging competition styled after the Tour de France. I’ve now made it to round three where I could use your help by voting for me with the word “wage” in the comments at: http://www.mypersonalfinancejourney.com/2013/07/tour-de-personal-finance-stage-16.html